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In John Wyndham's The Chrysalids, the society in which our main character, David, lives is caught up in the belief that anything that does not denote nature as God intended it, or the physical resemblance to the true image of God, is an abomination.
This perception is first introduced to young David when he makes friends with Sophie. David learns that Sophie has six toes. Her mom asks him to swear his silence. He does so, but is puzzled as to why it is necessary:
It was so heavy a promise that I was quite resolved to keep it...Though, underneath, I was puzzled by its evident importance. It seemed a very small toe to cause such a degree of anxiety.
David understands that these differences don't matter, but society is blind to this truth. In fact, when it is discovered that David knew about Sophie's abnormality and didn't tell, his father beats the rest of the story out of him. The battle control change destroys David's family life.
When humans are found to have "mutations," they are sterilized and banished to the Fringes—where life is harsh and food is scarce—or are exterminated. The change in these "mutations" is common to what occurs in nature, but society makes it "evil."
One sign that this is creating difficulty within Waknuk is that not everyone in the community is as faithful in burning crops or stock that create "mutations." David's father seems to find and destroy more "Offences" than anyone else. He believes that if the others were following God's rules...
...their liquidations would far outnumber ours: unfortunately there were certain persons with elastic principles.
Subtly, this shows the division within society—seen again when a new kind of horse is brought to Waknuk—with the State's approval. David's father greatly resents the presence of this unnatural animal; it also rankles that no one else is complaining. Obviously not everyone agrees with Stromer, and the law protects them—better horses increase crops and profits. Acceptance in this case allows progress.
Uncle Axel (among others) insists that the people who believe they know what God wants are wrong. He says...
...nobody, nobody really knows what is the true image. They all think they know...So...how am I [or is] anyone to be sure that this "difference" that you and Rosalind have does not make you something nearer to the true image than other people are?
Trying to keep change at bay forces fragmentation among the people. It causes strife within families. And it is all credited to God's wishes!
Pursued for being telepaths, David and the girls are captured in the Fringes and taken prisoner; the leader is David's uncle who was judged "unnatural" at a young age—but his mother smuggled him away. Living as an outcast has made David's uncle uncivilized and resentful; he decides to keep Rosalind as a "breeder", as well as Petra. Waknuk attacks to kill "Fringers" and capture David and the others. David rescues the girls and they escape just as the Sealand people arrive. The "Sealanders" throw a web, like that of a spider, over those fighting. The war stops—but trapped, they all die.
Trying to control something that is meant to change causes dysfunction, fragmentation, and fighting. Those from Sealand know this to be wrong and put an end to it. Waknuk could have chosen to accept those who were different, and to peacefully coexist; there would have been no attacks or stealing, and people would not have lived in fear for being different. Instead, all is lost.
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